#Haass paper published

Folks here are the proposals from the Haass talks that has been put up on the OFM/DFM website

Paper opens with ‘We in Northern Ireland have come along way. From the depths of violence we have built an impressive, albiet incomplete peace.’

It goes on to say ‘Despite these positive steps , we have further distance to travel. Many continue to await the end of sectarianism and the peace dividend that all citizens’ should be due.’

On who they met

The Chair and Vice Chair prioritised from the start engagement with civic society and the public…During several visits to NI , the Chair and Vice Chair held more than one hundred meetings with a broad range  groups, panel members, and officials from across NI.

Harking back to Terence O’Neill they tell us we are at the crossroads

We are standing at a crossroads in Northern Ireland. This is a remarkable opportunity to make bold choices to address the issues that hold us back from meeting our society’s full potential. Further delay will risk an increase in levels of public disengagement. The passage of time—and the passing of those with information toshare and wounds to salve—will also deprive Northern Ireland of the chance to learn as much as possible about its history while there is still time to do so. This loss would compound the social and emotional costs of our prolonged conflict.

On parades it proposed the creation of

The Office for Parades, Select Commemorations, and Related Protests

A new institution to be established via legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly is the Office for Parades, Select Commemorations, and Related Protests (‘the Office’). The Office shall serve a strictly administrative function intended to efficiently facilitate the vast majority of parades and other events that are non-contentious and to promote the resolution of any related disputes through community dialogue or mediation.

Any individual or organisation wishing to organise a parade or select commemoration, as explained below, shall be required to notify the Office no less than twenty-five working days before the planned event, with the exceptions noted below. Working days means all days except Saturdays, Sundays, and public or bank
holidays.

On flags

We reached no agreement on any of these proposals. Without a larger consensus on the place of Britishness and Irishness—for which there must be a special and protected place alongside other identities, national or otherwise, represented within our society—we could not reach a common position on the flying of flags and thedisplay of other emblems, which are in fact manifestations of these identities.

On dealing with the past

The time to rise to the challenge is now. Northern Ireland does not have the luxury of putting off this difficult, but potentially transformative, task any longer. Many of those with experiences and knowledge critical to what took place have already died and, with them, the ability to unearth many facts and emotions necessary to better come to terms with the past. The passage of time will only further erode our ability to do so. Individuals and civil society have done much groundwork, but the moment to make these efforts broader and more systematic has come.

On victims

The first is to do all that is possible to ensure that a range of high-quality services exists for those who need them. The second is to ensure that those individuals have a full understanding of the services available and can pursue those for which they are eligible. Should an individual wish, access to an advocate-counsellor will be provided to work in the individual’s interest to provide support and to help him or her understand and request relevant services.

On acknowledgement of past acts

Now is a time for all citizens of Northern Ireland, and the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, to reflect on the previous decades. This is not to suggest that blame for the violence is equally shared across society. It is not. A minority sought to advance agendas through means outside the law, while the overwhelming majority adhered to it. The burden of the past rests most heavily on those, whether paramilitary or state actors, who acted outside the rule of law. The vast majority assiduously eschewed violence, yet some may have contributed to the environment within which it flourished. To publicly acknowledge these realities does not equate them, but all such acknowledgements will help bring about a better climate.

To advance reconciliation and healing at both the individual and societal levels, acknowledgments should be more than apologies. Saying sorry is necessary but not sufficient. Full acknowledgements would include an unqualified acceptance of responsibility, express an understanding of the human consequences for individuals and society, and include a sincere expression of remorse for pain and injury caused. Statements of regret and reconsideration are also welcome.

On investigation bodies

The multiplicity of institutions and vehicles for justice in respect of conflict-related incidents, however, creates confusion and places enormous burdens on the police. The HET, PONI, and inquests also suffer from the perception that they have proceeded too slowly… It is our hope and expectation, however, that the high-quality and thorough investigations that will be conducted by the HIU will in time make it the preferred option for victims’ families. Inquiries will remain the purview of governments. But there is much that we can and should improve regarding the conduct and completion of HET and PONI investigations.

While it is not necessary or desirable to restart reviews or investigations into all conflict-related events, we believe it is necessary to establish through legislation a single Historical Investigative Unit (HIU) to take forward the remaining caseload of the HET and the conflict-related cases before the PONI. Once the HIU is fully established, the HET and the PONI will transfer all their records relating to completed cases and information relating to investigations not yet begun to the HIU. In order to avoid confusion and duplication of effort, investigations underway by the PSNI will be completed by the PSNI.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs